Return to Transcripts main page


Hailed as a Hero; San Diego Mayor Makes Deal with City; The Battle over Obamacare; Wentworth Miller Comes out as Gay

Aired August 22, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, the dramatic 911 call of a school office worker as she confronts a gunman armed with an assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammo. Hear how she saved the day with love.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator McConnell, conservatives don't need a chicken when it comes to Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Minnesota, land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance.


COSTELLO: Obamacare back in focus as some in Congress ramp up their bid to defund the law. It could stop the government from running.

And Russia's new crackdown on gays and lesbians finally pushes "Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller to come out of the closet.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. Checking our "Top Stories" at 32 minutes past the hour --

Egypt's former President, former dictator Hosni Mubarak has arrived at a military hospital where he will be placed under house arrest. Egyptian state media reports a helicopter landed at the prison to transfer Mubarak. He was sentenced to life in prison for inciting violence against protesters during the uprising that led to his ouster in 2011. Mubarak appealed. He'll get a new trial now.

A bombshell from convicted Army Private Bradley Manning. The WikiLeaks source announces he wants to live the rest of his life as a woman named Chelsea. Manning also wants the Army to provide hormone therapy for gender reassignment. Manning's gender identity crisis was revealed during the sentencing phase of his trial. The Army released this picture of Manning wearing a wig and makeup which Manning then sent to a psychologist. Here's some amazing pictures. Take a look at those trees. You'll see them go -- oh they're just going to sink into the water. Officials in south Louisiana are trying to figure out what caused a huge sinkhole to burp this week and swallowed several cypress trees. The sinkhole is more than 300 feet wide and 50 feet deep. Although on one spot it plunges more than 400 feet. A mandatory evacuation order has been in place since that sinkhole formed last year.

Children are back in class in Decatur, Georgia just two days after a school shooting terrified the community and shut down Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy.

Also this morning that dramatic 911 call everyone is talking about. Many are calling this woman, Antoinette Tuff, a hero. She's the school office worker who confronted the shooter.

CNN's Martin Savidge live in Decatur. Good morning, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Yes, Antoinette Tuff she has been with the school district eight years, been at this school three years, but on Tuesday it really came down to one hour that could have made all the difference for all of those inside. Take a listen to this dramatic call.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: DeKalb police what is your address and your emergency?

SAVIDGE (voice-over): It's a remarkable call.

ANTOINETTE TUFF: I'm on 2nd Avenue in the school and the gentlemen said tell them to hold down the police officer are coming and he say he's going to start shooting. So tell them to back off.

SAVIDGE: Alone in the office of an elementary school, bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff is face-to-face with a man armed with an assault rifle and close to 500 rounds of ammunition.

TUFF: Oh he just went outside and started shooting.


TUFF: Oh can I run?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you get somewhere safe?

TUFF: Yes I got to go. He's going to see me running back coming back.

SAVIDGE: It isn't just her life on the line but the lives of hundreds of students and staff as well as dozens of police officers now outside.

TUFF: He said to tell them to back off. He doesn't want the kids, he wants the police so back off and what else sir. He said he doesn't care if he dies and he don't have nothing to live for and he said he's not mentally stable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK stay on the line with me OK? Put the phone down if you have to but don't put it on hold so I can hear.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell me where you are?

TUFF: In the front office with him.

SAVIDGE: He's got an AK-47. She's only armed with her words and puts her own life on the line.

TUFF: I can let them know that you have not tried to harm me or do anything with me or anything if you want you -- but that doesn't make any difference you don't hit anybody. OK let me ask you this ma'am he didn't hit anybody he just shot outside the door if I walk out there with him -- if I walked out there with him, so they won't shoot him or anything like that --

SAVIDGE: To connect with the suspect, she pours out her own personal story of a marriage that suddenly ended.

TUFF: Well, don't feel bad. My husband just left me after 33 years. But -- yes, you do. I mean I'm sitting here with you.

SAVIDGE: And her own thoughts of suicide.

TUFF: We all go through something in life. No, you don't want that. You're going to be OK.

I thought the same thing. You know, I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me, but look at me now. I'm still working and everything is OK.

SAVIDGE: There's no hint of fear, no sense she's lying to save herself. Her cool, collect nature moves even the police dispatcher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma'am, you're doing a great job.

SAVIDGE: Moments later after convincing the gunman to put down his weapon and lay down himself, the police barge in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the ground. On the ground.


SAVIDGE: And only then does Antoinette Tuff finally break down.

TUFF: Let me tell you something, baby, nothing so scary in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me either, but you did great.

TUFF: Oh, Jesus.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE: Yes that is so powerful to hear that release coming from her, Carol, that sort of moment when she realized it's finally done. That ordeal went on for over an hour. That telephone call goes on for 20 minutes or so. Very difficult to condense it as I did there for about three minutes for you. If you get the chance, go to and listen to the whole thing. It is truly something -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It really is. Is Miss Tuff at school today?

SAVIDGE: No, she's got a well-deserved day off. She's resting and we understand probably going to get more attention because she has become this kind of national hero. This is a woman, she was trained, she did what she was supposed to do according to the principal, hold that gunman in place, but right now everyone wants to know more about her.

COSTELLO: I know I certainly do. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

And guess what, all of you will get to know more about her because tonight on "AC360" a special reunion. The 911 dispatcher meets Antoinette Tuff. That's tonight, 8:00 Eastern on CNN.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the waiting is the hardest part. It's been more than a month since Mayor Bob Filner was first accused of sexual harassment. Now it appears the San Diego Mayor has struck a deal.


COSTELLO: Tomorrow, everything could change in San Diego. Mayor Bob Filner and city leaders have finally reached a deal in mediation which could include the mayor's resignation, but we just don't know yet. And we won't know until the city council hears it first.

Filner himself has not been at city hall for weeks until yesterday. New cell phone video shows the mayor leaving city hall in an SUV with what appears to be boxes in the back seat. Filner watch: Day 32.

Casey Wian live in San Diego. And it sure looks like he was moving out of the mayor's office.

CASEY WIAN, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does, Carol. And you know locals say that before this scandal erupted this is where the Mayor would enter city hall every morning. He'd park that SUV just on the curb over there and walk this way sometime between 7:00, 8:00 in the morning. No sighting of him yet.

We do not know, as you reported, those details of that tentative agreement that was reached yesterday between the mayor's representatives, the city council, the city attorney, attorneys representing one of the alleged victims who has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Those details will be revealed to the city council at a closed session tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 local time.

After the city council acts, then the details should be known publicly. But at this point, it seems very difficult to figure out a way that Mayor Filner is going to be able to hold on to his job. All of the people that his representatives were negotiating with had said publicly the only way out of this they saw was for him to step down -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So -- so if he does step down, if he does lose his job, what happens then?

WIAN: Well then there will be a special election called and there's been a lot of folks who had expressed interest in running if that's what's happened, could get under way very, very quickly. In the meantime, the President of the city council, Todd Gloria, he would take over as interim mayor.

COSTELLO: All right Casey Wian live in San Diego, I hope you camp out all night to see what's in that deal. I'm dying to know. Thank you, Casey.

Still ahead on the NEWSROOM, he's a law and order politician who's taking the heat for a phone call he made to a local jail. Ashleigh Banfield will tell us what he said and what people are saying now.


COSTELLO: Checking our top stories at 46 minutes past the hour, this year's wildfire season has hit the billion-dollar mark and the nation's wildfire preparedness level is now at its highest level for the first time in five years. This fire near Yosemite National Park has more than doubled in size since Tuesday. The rim fire spans more than 53,000 acre, only two percent of it is contained.

If you're thinking about selling your old iPhone, you might want to act now. Older iPhones hold their worth better than any other smart phones selling for as much as $300, but retail prices tend to tank right before apple releases a new version, and the next big unveil is expected on September 10th.

In money news, Americans, do you know how to Yahoo!? According to ComScore, Yahoo! had the web's most visited sites in the United States last month. Google's Web site actually came in second. That hasn't happened in more than two years.

This morning in Texas the lieutenant governor is facing some tough questions after making a phone call to a local jail. What's that about, you ask? Well, Ashleigh Banfield will be talking about that on "LEGAL VIEW" in the next hour. What's it about -- Ashleigh?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Are you a fan of the movie "Anchorman", when you know, Ron Burgundy says, you know, I'm kind of a big deal, people know me? It's a little like this, Carol and I kid you not. You really do have to hear the phone call because the lieutenant governor made the phone call and it was recorded and it's all about a family member who happens to be sitting in the clink over some shoplifting charges.

But when you hear what he says and who he said it to, there are a lot of people who are coming out to say you can't do that. And by the way, not just his political rivals, some of the folk on his side, too.

So we're going to play you the tape and let you be the judge, because I'm not so sure a judge is ever going to hear it, but politically people will judge him.

COSTELLO: I can't wait to hear it. Ashleigh Banfield, thanks so much.

BANFIELD: All right. Carol, thanks.

COSTELLO: Still to come on the "NEWSROOM", John Boehner says it is the law of the land, but for some of his Republican colleagues the battle against Obamacare goes on. Why their latest strategy could impact funding for the entire federal government.


COSTELLO: Obama care. Let's talk. I know there's a lot of heat around the president's health care plan, but that doesn't mean you ignore the facts. Some critics have called me out for insisting Americans are pretty evenly split on Obama care. Although it might be easier to argue against the plan if a majority of Americans wanted to disappear, it's just not true.

According to the latest CNN poll, 43 percent approve of the plan; 54 percent do not. But you have to really look at the numbers to understand exactly what they mean. That 54 percent includes 19 percent of people who don't approve of Obama care because it is not liberal enough. They want it to go farther.

So do the math. 54 minus 16, equals 38 percent. So while 16 percent think Obama care doesn't go far enough, the remaining 38 percent of Americans think Obama care goes too far and they want it to go away. Now keep in mind, there is a margin of error of three percentage points.

But in the end, it means, yes, America is pretty evenly split on Obama care and that also means the battle for and against the law rages on in Washington and beyond. Here's Jim Acosta.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Gentlemen, thank you for sharing your views.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This town hall featuring Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz was practically a pep rally with conservatives shouting down a few liberal protesters and cheering on the Tea Party darling's plan to defund Obama care.

CRUZ: Number one, I agree with them. They should have health care and Obama care is causing more and more people struggling to climb the economic ladder to lose their health care.

ACOSTA: Cruz and his allies are eyeing two dates looming on the calendar, September 30th, when the government runs out of money, and the next day, October 1st, when online new Obama care insurance market places open for business. Conservative groups say that's the time to force Congress and the White House to choose. Defund the health care law or shut down the government.

DAN HOLLER, HERITAGE ACTION SPOKESMAN: There's a game of chicken going on to on both sides, and I'm fairly confident that if the Republican Party, Republican lawmakers, go out and make the case to the American people that Obama care is hurting them, it's costing them jobs, having hours cut back at their work, we can go out and win this fight.

ACOSTA: But not all Republicans are on board with the plan.

SEN. RICHARD BURR: I think it's the dumbest idea I've ever heard of.

ACOSTA: Even senate minority leader Mitch McConnell who's in the tough reelection fight has raised doubts.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: The problem is the bill that would shut down the government wouldn't shut down Obama care. Most of it is permanent law and not affected by that.

ACOSTA: Which is why the message war has begun with conservative groups targeting Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator McConnell, conservatives don't need a chicken.

COSTELLO: Just as the White House and states supporting the health care law are encouraging Americans to sign up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Minnesota -- land of 10,000 reasons to get health insurance.


ACOSTA: Other house Republicans are raising the stakes even higher with talk of impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could write that bill and submit it --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me. It would be a dream come true.

Reporter: Former House Speaker and co-host of CNN's "CROSS FIRE," Newt Gingrich, has a better idea -- put the shutdown ball in the president's court.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No, I would pass a bill that funded everything in the government except Obama care.

ACOSTA: Wouldn't that shut down the government?

GINGRICH: Only if Obama decided he wanted to shut it down. ACOSTA: White House officials have said there is no way the president would ever sign a bill have defunds the health care law and one top GOP aide said it's likely both sides will decide to keep funding the government until the end of the year. Still getting to a compromise -- could make September one wild ride.

ACOSTA: Jim Acosta CNN, Washington.

COSTELLO: What else is new? Still to come in the "NEWSROOM", standing face to face with Russia's strict new anti-gay law. The "Prison Break" star decides to come out of the closet. Wentworth Miller's revelation coming up.


COSTELLO: One of the stars of Fox's "Prison Break" -- remember that show -- well he's breaking his silence. Wentworth miller is gay. His revelation came in response to an invitation to a Russian film festival and his strong feelings about that country's strict new anti- gay laws.

Joining me now is entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner. Good morning, Nischelle.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. You know, if Wentworth Miller had just come out as gay we may not be talking about him today, but he came out as he was taking a public stand against the laws in Russia, and that's what's getting a lot of the attention today.

Neil Patrick Harris responded to this story on Twitter saying, quote, "Well done, Wentworth Miller -- bravo. Now while everyone may remember him from "Prison Break" he's also been carving out a career for himself behind the scenes. He's been writing and he also produced the recent movie "Stoker" with Nicole Kidman.

In this open letter that he wrote to the director of the St. Petersburg Film Festival, he actually, politely, declined the invitation to attend because as he puts it, quote, "I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly." "Eloquently put.

Now, given the growing awareness of the situation in Russia, more and more celebrities will be scrutinized for how they business in that country. We've seen people like Lady Gaga and Madonna protest these laws from the states. Other stars like Tilda Swinton I have had smaller protests for same sex right, in Russia.

But I don't know if we're going to see a lot of stars making decisions like Wentworth -- Carol. Not to go to Russia to protest this law.

Andy Cohen from bravo just did the same thing, decided not to host the Miss America or Miss Universe Pageant this year because it's there. But other than that, we haven't seen a lot of these decisions.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Nischelle, thank you so much -- we appreciate it as always. Nischelle Turner live in New York.

Thank you so much for joining me today, I'm Carol Costello. "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.